RealTime IT News

AOL Hoorays Hollywood Again

Can Time Warner's AOL video service entice consumers to download movies where other attempts have failed? The answer is a definite "maybe."

AOL Video, which launched in July, said it will offer pay-to-download DVDs and movies from 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

AOL wants to be the one stop for people seeking video, according to company spokesperson Jaymelina Esmele, who added that the time is now for video online.

Since Time Warner's decision to make much of its Internet division free, "video is definitely a priority of AOL," the spokesperson said.

Video downloads will cost between $9.99 to $19.99 per movie, according to AOL. The movies, once downloaded, can be viewed either on a PC or mobile device.

"Viewing online digital content is no longer an esoteric pastime," Benjamin Feingold, President of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Digital Distribution and Acquisitions," said in a statement.

In addition to pay-download movies, advertising-based Sony will offer television episodes, including "Charlie's Angels," "Starsky & Hutch" and "SWAT" at the AOL portal.

AOL Video will also feature paid downloads of current and past Fox Television series, including "24," "Prison Break," and "Bones," according to the Internet company.

Earlier this year, AOL debuted another video service, In2TV, streaming free classic television with advertising from Intel, Kraft Foods, Kia Motors and Hershey.

Fox Digital Media said AOL's wide reach will enable it to strengthen the market for digital downloads of its content.

Feingold went further, saying AOL potentially could become a major distribution channel for movies and a viable revenue source for Hollywood.

Earlier this month, Fox Interactive Media and Twentieth Century Fox signed a similar agreement with MySpace.

Downloading movies is not a new concept. Sites such as Movielink and CinemaNow offer pay-to-download content without particular success, according to analysts.

"We've seen some slow growth," Mike Goodman of Yankee Group, said. "We haven't seen them jump off the chart," he continued.

However, previous attempts haven't had the brand recognition which AOL claims. That sets this announcement apart, said the analyst.

There remains technological challenges to movie downloads. "People want to watch movies on their big screen TV, not PC," Goodman said.

Some companies are taking steps to fill that gap for downloading movies.

AOL, for instance, earlier this year agreed with Intel to tailor content to Intel's Viiv home entertainment platform.

And Movielink and CinemaNow announced plans to enable consumers to burn movies to DVDs.

Goodman says longer form video, such as movies and television episodes, is more advertiser-friendly, an important factor as AOL shifts from subscription fees to advertising.